Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tyson Chandler's Big Apple Impact

Jeremy Lin deserves the headlines he has garnered.  He has spearheaded the current New York run and put them back in the playoff picture, right as head coach Mike D'Antoni was on the cusp of unemployment.

But another pre-season Knick acquisition- one initially publicized more but has since been overshadowed since Linsanity took hold- is Tyson Chandler.  Chandler was supposed to come in and give the Knicks a defensive backbone, completing the Chandler-Amar'e Stoudemire- Carmelo Anthony trio.    

Chandler's ability to catch and finish is nearly unmatched.  
Amidst the many surprises N.Y. has encountered this season, Chandler has been a welcomed constant.  The straight-out-of-high school veteran center has seemed to click with the Ivy League youngster on both ends, rolling to the hoop for alley-oops on one end and having Lin's back after a blow-by on the other.  By the eye-test, they seem to communicate well.  

The Knicks are currently sixth in the NBA in defensive rating.  The last time New York finished a season in the top ten in defensive rating was back in 2001, when coach Jeff Van Gundy, ever-mean mugging Kurt Thomas, and young Marcus Camby were leading the defensive charge.  

Chandler has no doubt been a huge part of N.Y.'s defensive resurgence.  Never a prolific shot-blocker, Chandler's shot-changing help defense is his greatest asset.  It's important to note that actually blocking shots is overrated; it's better to block 1.4 shots per game and change a bunch of interior shot attempts (that's Chandler) than block three shot attempts and play bad help defense the other 92 possessions per game.  

Chandler's also rebounding the ball well with a 22.6 defensive rebound rate.  That's important since New York doesn't have any other great interior-oriented rebounders.  New York is the third-best defensive rebounding team in the league (it surprised the hell out of me, too).

Credit should also go to Jared Jeffries and defensive coach Mike Woodson, but Chandler is usually the last line of the defense.    

And Chandler remains the prototype for this era's role-playing offensive player at center.  Despite not playing with a playmaking PG until two weeks and having poor spacing as a result of team-wide shooting woes and zero ball movement, Chandler is averaging 11.7 points per game on a league-leading 73.6 percent True Shooting.  His individual offensive rating is a league-leading 136- basically, when he gets the ball, he doesn't make mistakes.  Insanity- no L. 

Something that worries me is that he's playing a lot of minutes- a lot more than last year.  He played less than 28 minutes per game last year; this year, he's up around 34.  That's a testament to his judiciousness with personal fouls, but D'Antoni would be wise to give him more breathers.  Chandler has been prone to injuries in the past. 

Chandler's two-way play and ability to play like a superstar role-player has proven constant through in-season turnover and turmoil for N.Y.  The right Baby Bull seems to be yielding great results thus far.     

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